Little Wisco spirit creates NYC restaurant empire

No U.S. metropolis is larger than New York City, a land of many choices, easy anonymity and ever-wary strangers. Around 4,200 restaurants help nourish the population of 8.2 million. Two miles south of Midtown skyscrapers and the commotion of Times Square is the West Village, where attitude and streetscape mutate quite a bit. Side streets(…)

Two new books pay homage to supper club sizzle

Unusual ingredients, recipes, meals and food traditions are at the core of what defines culture all around the globe. That includes what we take for granted about Wisconsin cooking and customs. Everybody eats, a lot of us enjoy talking about food and online sites such as hint at the passion we have to photograph(…)

Wollersheim’s first brandy sells out quickly

Grounds to Wollersheim Winery, across the Wisconsin River from Prairie du Sac, open at 8 a.m. April 13, and winemaker Philippe Coquard expects a crowd before doors open 90 minutes later. Making a debut that morning: 5,000 bottles of Coquard Brandy, an all-Wisconsin product, right down to the barrels of Wisconsin oak that the liquor(…)

Many cheese courses exist in America’s Dairyland

It’s business as usual in Wisconsin, which produces the most and best cheese nationally, but the culture is growing in new ways. America’s Dairyland this month won 47 of 81 categories at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, whose 1,700 entries came from 30 states. Next in line: Vermont and New York, each with six gold(…)

Badger cooking classes for kids teach healthy eating habits, too

You could say that Carol Burkert teaches survival skills to children, and the work begins with girls and boys as young as 9 years old. Her Kids Can Cook culinary school, for ages 9-12, began in 2008 and happens at Caroline’s Cafe, just west of Milwaukee. Six-student classes involve basic kitchen skills, and after four,(…)

Best Wisconsin chocolates: Start with make-your-own candy bars

I’ve built many tacos, fajitas, pizzas, salads, sandwiches and stir-fry meals while on the road, but never – until meeting Liz Garvey in Appleton – had I ever built a dream bar of chocolate. A custom-made candy bar weighs in around one-half pound and costs $9.50 at Wilmar Chocolates, which began business in 1956. The(…)

Gifts for foodies: ice cream treats to trips of a lifetime

People who travel will eat, and that makes every meal away from home an opportunity to create a beautiful memory. “Sharing the food and drink of another culture is one of the best ways to get to know that culture,” says Erik Wolf, president of the International Culinary Tourism Association. “Another culture” can mean another(…)

Milwaukee Food Tours: whiffs of bakeries, ethnicity

Aboard the designated “yellow limousine,” which looks an awful lot like a school bus, Sandy Oliver adjusts her elf’s hat and advises us to pace ourselves. Then her holiday and ethnic history lessons begin. What do Irish families eat on Christmas? Spiced beef, served hot or cold. Who stretches the yuletide season into a three-week(…)

Cranberries: winning recipes for all courses

Wisconsin farmers harvested about 4.5 million barrels of cranberries this year, which makes us the nation’s leading producer of the berry for 18 consecutive years. Once a year, during the last weekend in September, little Warrens – population 350, in Monroe County – presents a festival that is the largest of its kind. No other(…)

Beer here: Much a-brew in Wisconsin pubs, restaurants

The Brewers Association, which represents 1,900 small and independent brewers nationwide, says most Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery and that Wisconsin had 75 breweries at the end of 2011. The total doesn’t include new breweries being planned in Algoma, Hales Corners, Madison, Mequon, Orfordville and Waldo. The association also says the nation’s(…)

Canyon Road Inn B&B: woodsy retreat near Turtle Lake

Third in a series about the wide range of bed and breakfast lodging in Wisconsin. The state contains 300-plus licensed B&Bs, including this one. — How appropriate that we’re following the Sunset Trail as a sunny day nears its end, and the path leads us to a bench that overlooks quiet Skinaway Lake. Newlyweds already(…)

Brambleberry B&B: Stay for local-food farm dinner, too

First in a series about the wide range of bed and breakfast lodging in Wisconsin. The state contains 300-plus licensed B&Bs, including this one. — Pregnancy. The Blue Angels. Winemaking. Running vs. lawn mowing. Good books. Home ownership. Heirloom vegetables. Conversation, in the company of strangers, shifts often and effortlessly on a Saturday night at(…)

New food book also works as guide for hungry travelers

Cooking with nutritious and locally grown ingredients is easy at this bountiful time of year, and a new book offers a glimpse about which Wisconsin chefs make it a priority and habit during all seasons. The 2013 Wisconsin Local Foods Journal ($17.95, Ginkgo Press) is a self-described guide to sustainable eating, but it is also(…)

State fair foods on a stick: Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota

Going viral is a good thing, when writing for the Internet, and my biggest success in that regard happened three years ago. The topic: chocolate-covered bacon. Tens of thousands clicked on the story, and I was stunned. “God bless state fairs,” the editor wrote later. “Thanks for reminding me about the appeal of culinary wackiness(…)

Hot dog! Food trucks add sizzle to go-local menus

With the sunshine of spring comes a huge craving to fire up the grill and plop on the brats. Such simple, brown-and-sizzle pleasures turn extraordinary about 1,000 miles south. For breakfast: hot skewers of sausage doused with pancake/waffle batter, sprinkled with brown sugar and kissed with a syrup whose artisan flavors change with the season.(…)

Charlie’s Drive-in: It’s Elvis, tattoos, classic cars

Rachel Mann-Rosenfeldt takes a big step on the day before we meet. She adds a tattoo to her left leg – not a teensy rose or wimpy butterfly, but a sketch that covers much of her outer calf. It is not Rachel’s first tattoo, but this time the indelible ink freezes time in a most(…)

Cutting into the mustard at Middleton museum

Shortly after our host delivered a platter of shaved corned beef and rye bread, he returned with a word of advice: If you need mayo, leave now. Barry Levenson, founder of the National Mustard Museum, was smiling but not kidding. About 30 of us were at his Middleton museum on a recent Sunday afternoon, rating(…)

Rural ramble: St. Croix curds, cave, Vino in Valley

Former Gov. Anthony Earl in the 1980s dubbed Ellsworth, population 3,200, as Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin. The 102-year-old Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery produces 160 pounds of curds every day. “They’re fresh and ready at 11 a.m.,” says the creamery’s Beth Ingli, while busily distributing samples at this month’s annual Wisconsin Restaurant Association Expo in Milwaukee.(…)

New Jerry Apps book, events, trips for gardeners

One of my treats on Sundays is reading the latest blog entry by prolific Wisconsin writer Jerry Apps, whose keen observations about life always seem universal. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a farmhouse or high-rise condo. My favorite part is “The Old Timer Says,” a one-liner of homespun wisdom. Examples: “Sometimes I don’t see(…)

Chicago food: beyond dawgs, pizza, Bayless

Jazzed-up hot dogs, deep-dish pizza and any product with chef Rick Bayless’ thumbprint are among the foods that make Chicago famous. Add wiener schnitzel from the Berghoff, burgers from the Billy Goat Tavern, “da pork chop” from Ditka’s and pastas from Tony Mantuano’s Spiaggia. This is Chicago cuisine that – for the average tourist –(…)

Sacred sites produce something to savor

Most authors who choose food as a research topic head to restaurants, markets, factories or farms. Madison native Madeline Scherb opted for convents and monasteries. Her result – “A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Monks and Nuns” (Tarcher/Penguin, $15.95) – is one part cookbook, one part spiritual pilgrimage and(…)

Horseradish: from crop to plate in Manawa

Ebelskivers. Aebleskivers. Both spellings work, and both are pronounced ABLE-sky-vers. Until I got acquainted with Judy Trull and her Lindsay House B&B in Manawa, I was unenlightened about the Danish treat that gains popularity in December. The innkeeper describes ebelskivers as a puffy pancake with a filling. To make them properly, you need – what(…)

Tavern League: inside Sessler’s, Red Room

My father, as far as I could tell, wasn’t much of a drinker – but he liked to swing into one or more toasty shoreline taverns after a day of ice fishing on Lake Winnebago. The men told their fish stories and took turns buying a round. “I’ll take a soda,” my dad would say,(…)

Food trips: cheeses to Riviera Maya breezes

Let’s build your appetite to indulge in something new. It’s not hard work. — Milwaukee-based Funjet Vacations and Taste of Home Cooking School are combining resources to offer a tropical culinary getaway to Riviera Maya, near Cancun, Mexico. The Jan. 4-8, 2012, trip costs roughly $3,050 for an all-inclusive “gourmet experience” for two people who(…)